Release the Sunbird is the side project of Zach Rogue, best known as the bandleader for San Francisco indie band Rogue Wave. Desiring a change of pace from his main band, Rogue flew to Bloomington, Indiana in the summer of 2010, armed with fragments of folk songs and only a vague idea of where he wanted to take them. Thanks to an improvisation heavy recording style with talented Bloomington-based musicians and vocalist Kate Long, Rogue produced an album of breezy, heartfelt folk songs in just 9 days. The tracks are stripped down and acoustic, focusing on Rogue's amiable guitar playing and beautifully sincere vocals. Simple and tasteful drums and piano, and vocals harmonies flesh out the compositions. Release the Sunbird's debut album Come Back To Us was released by Brushfire Records on July 26th, 2011.
Look at any list of the greatest songs of all time, and negative themes will be sure to outweigh the happy ones. Not to say writing a great song is ever easy, but for whatever reason, a non-cheesy, non-trite positive song is even harder to write than the sad ones. So it's even more impressive that Zach Rogue's Release the Sunbird project is consistently positive and compelling, like a breezy (and unlikely) mixture of Jack Johnson and Nick Drake. You may recognize Zach Rogue from his day job as the bandleader of San Francisco indie popsters Rogue Wave, one of the 2000s most accomplished pysch-pop bands. Deciding he needed a change of pace, Rogue ditched the electric guitars and synths in favor of folky acoustic ditties. Though the tone and instruments are different, Rogue has kept his main band's trump card: amazing vocal hooks. Release the Sunbird's debut Come Back To Us ambles jovially by, built on rich guitars, simple drum beats and gorgeous vocal harmonies split between Rogue and female vocalist Kate Long. The songs are by turns fragile, joyful, redemptive, and at times melancholy. The songs have a spontaneous energy thanks to the environment in which the album was recorded. Rogue booked time at a studio in Bloomington, Indiana and improvised on fragments of songs with local musicians. Many of the tracks that resulted were first takes, which helps account for the breezy, spontaneous sound. In “Always Like the Son,” Rogue has captured a spectacularly organic sound, his guitar sounds bright and rich, and the recording captures every nuance of his singing. The vocal melody flows around the guitar and sparse piano notes, creating a calm, reflective and beautiful whole. “No Light” could be a stripped down Rogue Wave song with its hooky chorus filled with an array of guitar lines, vocal harmonies and other instruments dancing around each other. Come Back To Us is never deliriously happy or annoyingly upbeat, it pulses with a confident positivity that's almost implied in its reflective guitar strums and gorgeous harmonies. It's pleasant, and at its best, inspiring.